Saturday, December 17, 2016

The Half-Elf, Half-Orc Arcane Archer

Only a fool would claim that a half-orc is an opponent to take lightly. The ferocity of their forebears runs in their veins, and their night sight, in addition to their raw strength and hearty constitutions, can make them a serious threat on the battlefield. A half-orc with a bow can be particularly deadly, especially if his targets lack his ability to pierce the darkness. But when a half-orc archer raises his longbow, whispers a string of elvish words before letting fly, and then a ball of fire erupts where the arrow lands, that is a different kind of threat entirely.

Soldiers are dead, or frantically stamping out flames, and back-lit as they are it's child's play for the arcane archer to send shafts flying into each of them. But how did a half-orc ever learn the elvish magics that mesh with the mastery of the bow?

Maybe he beat it out of a teacher?

The Half-Elf, Half-Orc

If you're playing with the updated version of the rules, then you know that the "elf or half-elf" requirement was dropped from the arcane archer prestige class. However, even with that requirement removed, it's still a class that's associated quite heavily with elvish culture and heritage. But you don't need it to take levels of the class anymore.

With that said, you do still need to be considered an elf for feats like Stabbing Shot, and for certain items and spells that can add some serious punch to your character's abilities.

Now, in Pathfinder (as well as in the base rules for most of the recent editions of Dungeons and Dragons), say you're half-elf and half-orc is pure story flavor. Because while you can say that you are the child of two races, the racial abilities elf blood (for half-elves) and orc blood (for half-orcs) expressly state that you're treated as human and whatever your other race is for the purposes of effects, abilities, feats, etc. (taking classes and prestige classes falling under the "et cetera" label).

So, mechanically speaking, you only gain one half of your heritage. Which is where the Racial Heritage feat comes into things. If you caught my older post Bored Playing Regular Humans? Try Racial Heritage on For Size, then you know where this is going.

Strap in, because this is gonna get ridiculous.
So, you begin your character as a half-orc. You're considered an orc, and a human for all intents and purposes. Then, as your first-level feat, you take Racial Heritage (Elf). You are now, mechanically, treated as an orc, a human, and an elf for feats, magic items, spells, classes, prestige classes, and all that other stuff.

That's all it takes to get over that racial requirement hurdle for any abilities you want to add to your character, in a pure, mechanical sense. This is particularly true if you want to wield enchanted weapons that typically grant their abilities only to elves. Is it worth eating your 1st-level feat for access to those things? That's up to you to decide.

What's Your Story?

Getting the mechanics out of the way is easy; it's the story you're trying to tell that's going to be tough. Because someone with the strength of the orcs, and the guidance and grace of the elves, is going to become a terrifying archer with the proper training. But who gave this character that training? How did they unlock this potential?

Oh shit... my half-brother is nocking...
For example, did this character seek out a half-elf arcane archer? A mentor who knew how it felt to be sneered at as lesser, and told this was not truly his birthright? Alternatively, did this character get press-ganged into service by an orc tribe, who honed his natural instincts to a razor's edge before he figured out how to meld magic with his arrows? Or, unusually for a PC in an RPG, was this character part of a community that supported those with talent, regardless of where they came from and how they looked? Did the elders, upon putting a bow in his hands, realize that he had inherited more than his father's fine hair and silver eyes, despite the jutting brow and tusks from his mother's side of the bed?

There are all kinds of ways you can combine spellcasting and archery. The magus archetype myrmidarch is one of the simplest methods. If you want the original arcane archer, though, and you want to expand beyond the usual elves and half-elves, this is a fun little trick that lets you get away with something different.

That's all for this week's Unusual Character Concepts. If you enjoyed, check out the rest of the list. If you'd like to see more, then why not stop by The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page to leave a tip? Improved Initiative runs on your generosity, and even $1 a month can make a big difference. Lastly, if you haven't followed me over on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter yet, why not start today?


  1. Why do you need Racial Heritage though? I checked the PRD, and nowhere does it say you have to be an elf to take the PrC. Am I missing something?

    1. Good catch! That requirement was removed in latter editions of the rules. I still have the first edition core rulebook, which has it listed as a racial requirement. The article has been edited to reflect the current rules.

  2. I recommend suggesting Eldritch Archer rather than Myrmidarch. It's a much better Magus Archetype for ranged weapons